Lansing Creative Brings Back Old-School Tintype Photographs

Story by Will Travis

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Before Steven Glynn was a photgrapher, he graduated with a degree in Marketing, and later worked in property management sales. Today, he’s becoming known around the state for his unique, old-school tintype photgraphs. Glynn recalls how he initially caught the photo bug.

“I decided it would be cool to take my own images to manipulate and mess around with,” Glynn said. “I started enjoying the process of photography more and more, and after a couple years of doing photos for friends and family, I decided to pursue a career in it.”

Now, Glynn works as a full-time portrait and commercial photographer in the Lansing area. His most signature style is tintype.

A tintype photograph is a created from a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with chemicals used as the support for photographic emulsion. Tintype photographs were popular during the 1860’s and 1870’s, but faded off near the start of the 20th century.

Glynn’s interest in tintype photography started when his friend, ‘Curbstalker,’ found an old camera and offered it to him as a gift. “He offered it to me as a gift,” Glynn said. “At the time, I didn’t really know how to use it, but I accepted.”

After researching the camera and learning about the method, he decided to try it.

 

“After failing my first hundred plates or so, I finally had a half-decent image appear … I decided once I had it down, I would offer it to my clients as an add-on service or alternative to digital images and people really loved the process and the resulting image,” said Glynn.

According to Glynn, the camera – which he describes as “the stereotypical old-school camera” you see in movies dating back before the 1920’s – has no electronics or automation, which leaves the photographer in full control.

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“I like to describe it like a wrench, a wrench won’t fix a car by itself. Someone has to have the skills and knowledge to get the job done,” he said.

The process requires a darkroom to prepare the tin plates and to develop them. The process was common during the mid-1800’s until the 1940’s, when film became prominent. Each tintype takes around a half hour to make, and constant attention or the photo could be ruined. 

For this Lansing photographer, it’s not so much about the result as it is the process.

“It allows me to disconnect from the digital world we all live in,” Glynn said, “and do something hands-on, clunky, slow, and unrefined — but beautiful.”

On Saturday, Glynn will be holding a pop-up tintype portrait session at The Crafted Bean in Lansing. The event runs from noon until 3 p.m. and costs $60. Participants are encouraged to dress up. To sign up for a time slot, click here.

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